The California Walnut Board’s Greek Walnut Meatballs with Tzatziki Sauce By Maria Koutsogiannis


FOLSOM, Calif. —  These Greek-inspired walnut meatballs from talented food blogger and author Maria Koutsogiannis are featured at the California Walnut Board (CWB) website (, and can be enjoyed as appetizers or as a side or main dish.

Maria, a Greek Canadian, is the creator of FoodByMaria (  Her popular recipes have been published in Impact Magazine, Spoonful: A Guide to Food and Laughter, Whole Foods, and Food Network Canada.  FoodByMaria is on a mission to change the way many people eat and understand their food.  She uses her website to share her love for appetizing, healthy, plant-based eating.  The FoodByMaria App features over 140 plant-based healthy, nutritious, and simple recipes, colorful breakfasts, simple snacks, nutrient-rich dinners, and desserts so decadent you won’t believe they contain no sugar (

Walnuts are a multipurpose nut with a flavor profile that pairs beautifully with foods. There is a long list of benefits that come with walnuts that work well as a meat substitute; they can be incorporated in a variety of recipes anytime of the year.  Walnuts are a gluten-free food that can be used in sweet and savory dishes; they add a delicious, nutty flavor to cakes, breads, pestos, sauces, salads, chutneys and more.  They add crunch to salads and side dishes, boost the nutrient content of desserts, cookies, and snack bars, and are perfect as a plant-based crumble in tacos, burritos, casseroles, and more.  Use a food processor to pulse walnuts and either mushrooms, cauliflower or beans, with desired seasoning, for use as a replacement in scrambles and toppings.

To download the California Walnuts Simple Recipes and Tips Cookbook, go to:

“Established in 1948, the CWB represents walnut growers and handlers of California,” says Michelle McNeil Connelly, CWB Executive Director.  “People are surprised to learn that over 99 percent of the walnuts in U.S. are grown in the fertile soils of California’s Central Valley. California walnuts supply over half of the world’s walnut trade,” she adds.  California-grown walnuts are not genetically modified.  California’s walnut industry understands consumer concerns regarding genetically modified foods. The CWB works with the University of California’s walnut breeding program to release new walnut varieties for planting that have been developed through conventional breeding methods. (The CWB does not anticipate production of genetically modified walnuts in California in the foreseeable future.)

There are over 4,400 California walnut growers, and most farms are owned and operated by families who have been in the walnut business for several generations. For over 30 years, the California Walnut Commission has also supported health-related research examining the effect of walnut consumption on areas including heart health, cognition, cancer, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, gut health, body weight/composition, reproductive health and more.”

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Enjoy these tasty walnut meatballs with a fresh tzatziki sauce, thrown into a pita sandwich or pasta dish, or on top of hot rice, bulgur pilaf or noodles.

Maria Koutsogiannis’ cookbook

Tzatziki Sauce:


3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt or vegan yogurt

1 tablespoon olive oil (to taste)

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (to taste)

1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh dill

1 clove grated or minced garlic

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Pinch of pepper

1/2 medium cucumber, grated and squeezed or patted dry between paper towels to remove any excess liquid




2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/4 cup feta or vegan feta cheese

3 tablespoons capers, drained

1 tablespoon umami spice

2 teaspoons dried oregano

2 teaspoons dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon pepper

3/4 cup California Walnuts

1/2 cup cooked chickpeas, rice, or lentils

1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (to taste)

2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh dill

Olive oil spray



Combine tzatziki sauce ingredients together in a bowl; cover and chill for at least 1 hour or overnight. (The flavor will continue to improve the longer it sits.)

Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and stir in feta, capers and seasonings; let cool slightly.

Place walnuts and chickpeas, rice or lentils in a food processor and pulse to coarsely chop.  Add onion mixture, breadcrumbs and lemon juice and pulse again until all ingredients are chopped and mixture holds together when gently pressed together, being careful not to over mix.  Add dill and pulse to mix.  Let stand for 15-20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Roll into 18 equal balls, slightly larger than a tablespoon, and place on baking sheet.  Coat with olive oil spray and cook for 30 minutes, turning and coating with olive oil spray every 10 minutes.  Serve with tzatziki sauce, a Greek salad, grains, or as a part of an appetizer platter.

Note: Chickpeas: You can choose between chickpeas, lentils, or rice in this recipe but if you use chickpeas you’ll help improve your digestion, and get a boost of protein while also helping to reduce the risk of several diseases.

For this recipe, see:

This recipe is featured at:

ORDER TODAY: Mindful Vegan Meals: Food is Your Friend Paperback

<> Maria Koutsogiannis, go to:

For plant-based Greek vegan recipes, see:

For FoodByMaria MiniCookbooks and free ebooks, see:

For vegan desserts, see:


For more information, contact:

California Walnut Board and Commission

101 Parkshore Dr. Ste. 250

Folsom, CA 95630

Tel: (916) 932-7070

Fax: (916) 932-7071

For healthy and delicious walnuts recipes from the California Walnut Board,

Learn more about the nutritional benefits in one ounce of walnuts at:

© 2022 California Walnuts. All Rights Reserved.


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